Recognition of Patient Referral Desires in an Academic Managed Care Plan. Frequency, Determinants, and Outcomes

Department of Medicine, Division of General Internal Medicine, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Denver, Colorado 80262, USA.
Journal of General Internal Medicine (Impact Factor: 3.45). 04/2000; 15(4):242-7. DOI: 10.1046/j.1525-1497.2000.015004242.x
Source: PubMed


To determine the frequency and determinants of provider nonrecognition of patients' desires for specialist referral.
Prospective study.
Internal medicine clinic in an academic medical center providing primary care to patients enrolled in a managed care plan.
Twelve faculty internists serving as primary care providers (PCPs) for 856 patient visits.
Patients were given previsit and postvisit questionnaires asking about referral desire and visit satisfaction. Providers, blinded to patients' referral desire, were asked after the visit whether a referral was discussed, who initiated the referral discussion, and whether the referral was indicated. Providers failed to discuss referral with 27% of patients who indicated a definite desire for referral and with 56% of patients, who indicated a possible desire for referral. There was significant variability in provider recognition of patient referral desire. Recognition is defined as the provider indicating that a referral was discussed when the patient marked a definite or possible desire for referral. Provider recognition improved significantly (P <.05), when the patient had more than one referral desire, if the patient or a family member was a health care worker and when the patient noted a definite desire versus a possible desire for referral. Patients were more likely (P <.05) to initiate a referral discussion when they had seen the PCP previously and had more than one referral desire. Of patient-initiated referral requests, 14% were considered "not indicated" by PCPs. Satisfaction with care did not differ in patients with a referral desire that were referred and those that were nor referred.
These PCPs frequently failed to explicitly recognize patients' referral desires. Patients were more likely to initiate discussions of a referral desire when they saw their usual PCP and had more than a single referral desire.

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